Finding the perfect travel backpack is similar to shopping for cars—you can go basic, or you can load up on the bells and whistles. And just like a car, you have to make sure you pick the right one because this bag will become your best friend or worst enemy when on the road.
From packs with features most travelers will never need (ice ax hooks? Really?) to the basic reliable bag that will last you a lifetime, here are seven backpacks that are ideal for nomads.
1. Patagonia Black Hole Pack, $129; 2. Kletterwerks Kletter Flip, $229; 3. Fjallraven Kanken,
From $75; 4. Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry, $130; 5. Douchebags The Base, $119; 6. Osprey Pixel Port, $120; 7. Mission Workshop Rambler, $285
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Fjallraven Kanken: Like the Kletterwerks, this retro-inspired backpack errs on the side of simplicity, with one big main pocket and a zippered pocket in the front. The pack, which comes in various colors and sizes, was originally designed for Swedish school children, but its durable Vinylon F fabric–which repels moisture better than any other synthetic fabric—made it popular with travelers. Add-on the $50 Kanken Photo Insert to transform this pack into a stealth camera bag thanks to a series of padded, adjustable chambers.
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Kletterwerks Kletter Flip: Keeping things simple, the cylinder-shaped Kletter Flip has a zippered upper pocket on the bag's lid and a big 22-liter main pocket (which also includes a padded 17-inch laptop sleeve). The durable 1000 Denier Cordura fabric is weather resistant, the side compression straps makes things smaller and the padded shoulder straps lighten the load.
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Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry: Made for the backcountry, the Scrambler will outperform your old canvas daypack in almost every way. It boasts the outdoor company's proprietary OutDry tech, making it as close to a waterproof pack as you can get without calling it a dry bag. Its host of features (including adjustable and stowable straps, carry loops, deep side pockets, hydration sleeve and suspension that conforms to your body) makes the bag one of the most versatile on the market.
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Osprey Pixel Port: As close to a "smart pack" as you can get without making it battery-powered, the Pixel Port features a "port" window that lets you access and use a tablet without removing it from the pack. That'll come in handy when navigating a city street during a monsoon. The bag, which comes in five colors, can carry 14 liters and has a 14-inch laptop sleeve in a very sleek, urban-centric package.
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Patagonia Black Hole Pack: The Black Hole uses the same weather-resistant, durable fabric found in Patagonia's hardcore duffel bags and can also accommodate a 15-inch laptop. The main pocket has multiple compartments, and the outer section has a sleek concealed pocket ideal for stashing travel documents.
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Douchebags The Base: No, not that kind of douche bag. Jokke Sommer, one of the most extreme base jumpers in the world, designed the Base to accompany him on his escapades. This means you can rest assured that this backpack is strong. The side opening makes accessing the interior easy, which includes a bunch of internal compartments like a padded laptop sleeve. The "rib cage" construction—inspired by how the human body protects its most valuable organs—makes it one of the most durable packs on the market.
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Mission Workshop Rambler: The Rambler carries 44 liters. Designed with cycling in mind, the pack also includes multiple weatherproof pockets, a carbon fiber-reinforced frame and 17-inch laptop sleeve. If you want to exercise your inner OCD, you can also accessorize the shoulder straps with more storage options, thanks to Mission Workshop's Arkiv system—a cool way to add more pockets that slide onto durable, lightweight rails.